| Friday 19th October
2007 | Issue 607
WAKE UP!! IT'S YER CONSTANT DRIP OF...
Version - Download, Print, Copy and Distribute!
Story Links: Splash
The Cash | Haw In Babylon | Cheque
It Out | Ground Force | Party
& Protest | East Angrier |
Lines | The Hills Are Alive | And
AS INVESTMENT SHARKS
ENJOY THE THRILL OF WATER SPORTS
Ever since England and
Wales' water was privatised by Thatcher in 1989, Big Business has
been making big money out of the monopoly of one of life's essentials.
Last week investment
Bank JP Morgan part purchased Southern Water. With a captive and
always thirsty customer base of 6.6 million people, the company's
going to be raking in more than £1.5bn per year. During the
first ten years of water privatisation profits rose by more than
160% - if you'd been flying high on the yuppie boom and invested
£100 in Southern Water in 1989, your investment would be worth
nearly £650 ten years later. Nice little earner! Meanwhile,
proper investment in the infrastructure becomes unattractive and
'customers' (they can just choose not to have running water if they
don't like it) are rewarded with ever deteriorating service and
bills set to rise by a minimum of £15 a year, having already
gone up more than 60% since privatisation.
Company bosses have argued
that the increases were justified because of the improved service
being offered. The Serious Fraud Office begged to differ after it's
investigation into the company. A policy of artfully concealing
the true number of complaints it receives, pretending that its performance
was a lot better than reality and adding a more positive spin to
customer feedback were just three techniques being used to boost
'shareholder value'. Shame they just couldn't seem to find the cash
to do anything about the 115million litres of water that are lost
every day due to leaks. And SchNEWS is still waiting for them to
improve water quality on Brighton Beach so we can do skinny dipping
without getting ill! It's been sixteen years since a European Directive
meant the sewage works had to be upgraded to a decent level of treatment
in the area.
The same share-boosting
blags are at work in London too. Thames Water is facing a record
£11m fine for misreporting regulatory required information.
But still it's worth it for Australian investors who last year bought
it for £8bn, almost twice as much as the previous German owners,
RWE, had paid only three years previously. And RWE had done their
best to spend the cash - with the five-man board of directors receiving
£20m in shares and salaries in 2005! And just why has a company
that has missed its leakage targets three years in a row being allowed
to increase prices to consumers by 20 per cent?
Maybe the answer lies
in the fact that global water company shares have posted better
profits than Big Oil over the last three years, despite the boom
in price of a barrel of black gold. The Bloomberg World Water Index
of 11 utilities has seen 35 per cent a year growth since 2003 -
a figure no doubt helped along by the 10% a year increase in bills
In the countries of the
south, the damage is even worse as poorer countries are forced to
sell their water infrastructure as part of world trade agreements
or IMF/World Bank loans. 22,000 people have their water disconnected
every year in Johannesburg alone. With a population of 44 million
people, almost one quarter have been disconnected at some time in
a country where 43,000 people die of diarrhoea each year. At least
that water company was supplying some people with water: in Tanzania
they didn't even get round to building any pipes while the UK's
own Adam Smith Institute were paid £35m for spin, including
developing a propaganda campaign that centred around a pop video
with the lyric "Our old industries are dry like crops and privatisation
brings the rain!"
THIRST FOR ACTION?
If you're pissed off
with this why not just not pay? By law they can't cut your water
off - all the water companies can do if you don't pay is get a County
Court judgement against you.
Mass non-payment has
been a great way to deal with unfair charges; it saw off the Poll
Tax. In Northern Ireland a successful campaign against the introduction
of additional water charges has been running for two years. Currently
water charges are paid through rates, but the Northern Ireland Assembly
want to introduce a separate bill for water (like in England), but
of course without any corresponding decrease in the rates!
The blatant attempt to
tap the the public for a flood of filthy lucre did not go unnoticed
by the great unwashed and a successful campaign saw the additional
water bills postponed for two years, saving the average family £339.
Despite many politicians declaring before the recent Assembly election
that they were against the charges, the way water is rationed for
cash is now 'under review' and the scheme continues to lurk as an
option. More info www.wewontpaycampaign.com
* See also SchNEWS
AS PARLIAMENT SQUARE
PEACE CAMP IS TRASHED BY GLA-HIRED GOONS
On Wednesday 17th, the
peace camp at Parliament Square was attacked, and all tents
except Brian Haw's taken down. In an exclusive interview
with yer sore-away SchNEWS, Brian described how a small group of
police stood around while security from an unknown company (Chubb
was written on the side of their van) - hired by the Greater London
Authority - attacked and damaged the tents and displays, which all
ended up in a smashed heap on the pavement. Protesters were also
assaulted during the raid - but the police didn't intervene, saying
that they were 'only there to supervise the operation'.
This is the second recent
attempt to close Brian Haw's camp at Parliament Square where he
has been heroically battling away since June 2001, and successfully
fought off the law introduced to stop him - SOCPA (See SchNEWS
543). The first attempted eviction, in August, led to the fence
being erected around Parliament Square.
Through the hard won legal battles, the GLA has been forced to concede
that Brian can have his tent and also has the right to have nineteen
supporters. Earlier this year a court case established that supporters
need to be there, to fulfil the condition that the camp be supervised
24-7. Despite this, and having had their stuff trashed, supporters
now have to set up on the pavement off the grass. Any trying to
get back beside Brian are being prevented by private security goons.
Protesters from the Burmese
peace camp were also told to move their tents off the Square.
Next week Brian Haw is
taking police to court in Southwick Court, Tuesday at 10am (support
welcome!), about peace displays which they stole on May 23rd last
year despite not having a court order (see SchNEWS
* See also www.parliament-square.org.uk
This past Monday (15th)
saw a wave of actions around the country against the Royal Bank
of Scotland (RBS). While you haven't ever got to look far for
why banks need targeting (war, climate change, child labour, you
name it they've paid for and profited from it!), Rising Tide singled
out RBS (who own Natwest, Direct Line and Churchill insurance) for
special treatment due to the dodginess of their vast oil investments.
When not funding controversial projects in Nigeria or the gas pipeline
in Wales (see www.fightthepipe.co.uk), its involvement in Angolan
and Azeri oil fields encourages corruption and conflict, while gas
projects from the Arabian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico threaten environmental
The thirty oil and gas
finance deals RBS signed between 2001 and 2006 means they are facilitating
655 million tonnes of emissions over the next 15 years, more than
the UK's entire annual emissions.
Ironically, all this may not even have come to the attention of
protesters had the bank rather rashly not boasted about it all -
launching a swaggering new corporate website, subtly called www.TheOilAndGasBank.com
Over thirty actions took
place all over the UK. A dozen visited the RBS headquarters in London,
one scaling the building to unfurl a large banner, while others
distributed hundreds of leaflets, being careful not to step on the
suspiciously people-shaped polar bears having a die-in.
It was a similar story in Manchester, with the addition of a band,
as the regional HQ was targeted.
Bristolian polar bears
locked-on to the doors of their local RBS office imaginatively using
suitcases full of cement. They blocked all vehicle access to the
site and it took police over four hours to remove them.
In Edinburgh and Norwich super glue was the weapon of choice, putting
bank staff in a sticky situation when they came to open up. Other
attention-grabbing stunts include entering branches in Oxford and
Birmingham carrying large cardboard pipelines, mock staff offering
the public the chance to 'open an oil rig today' in Bath and the
Glasgow RBS were treated to a impromptu show by the Treacle Tart
Cabaret, a zanily dressed duo who sang, danced, waved placards and
got up on the cashiers' desks to strut their stuff.
Such a barrage of actions may certainly have dented RBS's pride
but it will still take a lot to make them fall...but the protesters
will be back - you can bank on it.
For a more comprehensive
roundup and pix see www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/10/383812.html
The Common Ground
Community Garden in Reading (see SchNEWS
594) has finally been evicted. Anarcho-squatters had been occupying
the former Women's Information centre, left derelict by the council,
since the turn of 2007 - cleaning up the site and turning it into
a public garden. The council weren't keen, presumably eyeing up
the next luxury flat development opportunity - and after previous
failures (attempts met with too much resistance after locals got
tipped off about the scheduled time), bailiffs, council workers
and old bill pulled a fast one and all turned up unexpectedly on
Thursday (18th) morning. Caught short, a couple of people attempted
a sit-in the garden, but in the end it was all to no avail.
The green-fingered squatters
involved aren't quitters however, and they are planning to "build
upon the community spirit that Common Ground has created so far.
Needless to say, this is not the last that Reading Borough Council
will hear from us, and it may not be the last time we set foot in
our garden.." Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Report and pix at www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/10/383900.html
* October : 20-21st
- "Camp Hope." - Activists and local residents are
organising a camp to protest the expansion of Gloucestershire Airport
at Staverton. It will take place at a secret location near the airport.
Close to Gloucestershire Airport, Staverton, Nr. Cheltenham. Starts
10.00am. For address see www.myspace.com/campofhope
* 23 - The New Scramble
for Africa: talk and discussion with Charlie Kimber, journalist
and writer on African affairs. 7.30-9pm at the Brighthelm Centre,
North Road, Brighton BN1 1YD. Free entry. See www.watchingthewarmakers.org.uk
or contact 01273 706820 for more info
* 24 - No Sweat: Harvard
Living Wage - a film about how students at Harvard took on university
managers to help campus cleaners and caretakers win a living wage.
Plus discussion of future actions by anti-sweatshop campaign group
No Sweat. 7pm, Cowley Club, London Road, Brighton, free entry, tel
07811 723131 email email@example.com web www.nosweat.org.uk
* 26th - yer monthly
Critical Mass - The peddle powered direct action where cyclists
retake the road en-masse. Usually on the last Friday of the month
at 5.30pm at a regular meeting point. For the list of known rides
* November: 3rd -
"Bash the Rich!" march on David Cameron's house in
Notting Hill, London. www.londonclasswar.org
In the run up to the
next East Anglian social forum, the project's website has
had a relaunch. Now wiki-driven with a more indymedia-ish feel,
it comes complete with comprehensive news, listings and history
features and will be an even better resource for any agitator types
in the badlands of East Anglia.
The forum is set for
November 10th from 10-5pm, in the busy metropolis of Halesworth
(where's that?! we here you ask - a tiny sleepy town in north Suffolk,
* For more see www.easf.org.uk
Next Saturday (27th)
is the annual Anarchist Bookfair. It's been turning the pages
of history since 1983 and has been getting steadily bigger every
year. This year will be another bonanza - in a new, bigger venue
- of talks, meetings, screenings, cabaret as well as stalls flogging
books, t-shirts, DVDs and obscure pamphlets from the 19th Century.
SchNEWS will be handing out prizes for "Most black ink used
in an anarchist publication", "Most impenetrable tome",
"Least inspiring discussion session", "Dryist pamphlet",
with special bonus points for 'A' symbols.
All the weird and wonderful
factions of anarchy will be there - syndicalists reminiscing about
the failed Spanish revolution, primitivists hunting for pot noodle
in Tescos, decadent lifestyle-ists, (middle) class-warriors, post-modern
anarcho carnivalistas being absurd in the face of rationality and
disillusioned communists who've finally realised Stalin, Mao and
Pol Pot were murdering scumbags!
- Anarchist Bookfair:
27th Oct, 10am-7pm, Queen Mary and Westfield College, Mile End
Road, London. www.anarchistbookfair.co.uk
- There will be a bookfair
after-party at Rampart Social Centre, saving you having to
meet in a pub. A benefit for Rampart and Noborders which features
DJ Rubbish, Drowning Dog, Malatesta and others. Sugg. £5,
opens 6pm with films, acts from 9pm. 15 Rampart St, London, E1
2LA, off Commercial Rd near New Rd Junc - short bus-ride from
HILLS ARE ALIVE
The latest at the Hill
Of Tara, where the Irish Govt are trying to build a motorway
through one the most important archaeological sites in Europe (See
SchNEWS 585), is that more ancient burials
have been discovered and protesters are making an emergency appeal
for the road to be re-routed. The road is due to go through forty-odd
known sites of ancient historic interest, with new sites being unearthed
during the excavations - and being promptly destroyed. The latest
discovery is at Philpotstown, where the motorway will cut into the
Hill Of Tara, where they have dug up a system of ancient fields,
ceremonial and burial structures, and an Iron Age hill fort.
On a legal front the
European Commission is starting legal action against the Irish Govt
over the motorway. The commission decision will force the Irish
government to defend its position at Europe's highest court, which
will lead to fines if it loses the case. The European Environmental
Commissioner says that the National Monuments Act doesn't offer
enough protection for important archaeological sites and that it
is in contravention of directives about environmental assessment.
The Irish Govt's only defence is to say that re-routing will cause
delays and cost an extra 200million Euros.
There's an ever urgent call out for people to support and visit
* Contact Tara Solidarity Vigil (from UK dial) 00353(0) 861758557;
Fianna Nua Camp, Rath Lugh: 00353( 0) 861537146
* See www.tarapixie.net
* There will be a Samhain gathering at Tara Oct 31st - Nov
3rd.- bring music, food and firewood. www.circlecommunity.org
that he was driving the bus for Blair, the steady erosion of civil
liberties continues under Gordon "Too chickenshit for an election"
Brown. The Legal Services Commission, after a period of ignoring
all criticisms - er, 'consultation' in other words - have confirmed
they are pushing ahead with the national rolling out of plans to
corporatise justice that bit further.
From February next year
(and in parts of Manchester, the Midlands and Yorkshire from next
month) when you get nicked for a minor offence, you will no longer
have the right to see a duty solicitor. Well who needs personal
service in this hypermodern low-cost-high-profit age? Unbelievably,
wrong-doers will just be invited to ring a call centre instead and
hope to speak to a 'legal advisor' - someone who doesn't even have
to be qualified as a solicitor. In fact, the company who has 'won'
(why is it always won and not saddled with or conspired in?) the
contract for London uses largely ex-coppers as its 'advisors'.
So anyone coming under
a bit of police hassle, and increasingly of course that really does
mean anyone, will now have to deal with:
"Hi! Your call is important to us, but we are experiencing
a high volume of calls at the moment, you might like to call back
later... Otherwise - for a drunken fight press '1'; for a domestic
disturbance press '2'; and for small-time class 'c' drug-use press
'3'..." all to the faint strains of a muzak version of 'Jailhouse
* Note: if you specify
you want to see a particular named solicitor then you won't get
a Call Centre. SchNEWS advises all readers to get hold of the number
a decent solicitor, just in case, honest!
SchNEWS warns all readers
- if your ideologies are leaky and you're out to smash the cistern,
you could alway try to faucet to change. Honest!
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